City, County and State workers have unique employment and disability retirement rights from either CalPERS or the County Retirement Systems. Benefits vary depending on the membership type each employee may have within the retirement system as well as the tax consequences. Resignation, termination and rehire rights may impact these benefits negatively thus how a workers’ compensation case is settled could prejudice their current and future rights.
We find many that contact us late in the process have unwittingly delayed in seeking benefits causing them to lose benefits. In fact, many take a service retirement not knowing this can be detrimental. Converting from a service retirement into a disability retirement is not always possible. These workers should understand when they need to be seeking their benefits and what impact the decisions they make may have on their rights to future benefits. Retirement Systems have become more aggressive in defending against these claims and timing is important.
The selection of the treating doctor is crucial. Unlike in workers’ compensation matters, the doctor must be willing to provide information beyond what is required for the workers’ compensation case. Permanent work restrictions must be actual, not prophylactic. The doctor must be willing to complete forms and provide rebuttal opinions. The doctor may be required to testify in a hearing to substantiate their findings versus only provide reports. Public employee needs to have a treating doctor that understands the standards required to pursue a disability retirement and is willing to cooperative beyond what is required in the workers compensation case.
Once granted a disability retirement the public employee must be advised as to what to expect in the future from the retirement system they belong. Under the law, they may be subjected to regular re-evaluations of determinations for disability if they are under voluntary service retirement age. The purpose of the re-evaluations is to verify whether the recipient remains physically or mentally disabled from the position which they disability retired for the condition(s) that they were approved for. The re-evaluation process is in depth considering new employment and whether they are working within work restrictions, what treatment have they been receiving, surveillance, and it is likely they be sent for a medical exam. This can occur multiple times. It is imperative they stay in active consistent treatment beyond the closing of the workers’ compensation.